Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

June 16, 2013

The next step

Grayson council has the task of controlling alcohol sales

The Independent

ASHLAND — The people — or at least those who took the time to vote in Tuesday’s special  election — have spoken. The issue of alcohol sales in Grayson has ben settled for at least the next three years.

In an outcome that surprised many, Grayson voters rather convincingly for the legal sale of alcohol in the city for the first time since 1937. With 511 voters answering in the affirmative to the question, “Are you in favor of alcoholic beverages in Grayson, Ky.?” as opposed to 393 voting “no,” the results were not even close. The measure passed in all seven of the city’s precincts.

Now that voters have approved  the sale of all types of alcohol in package stores and of liquor by the drink in restaurants and bars,  the burden falls on the Grayson City Council to enact an ordinance  to control the sale of alcohol in the city. The ordinance will go a long way in determining whether the return of legal alcohol sales in the city for the first time in 76 years will be the major shot in the arm for the small town’s economy that the most avid supporters of alcohol sales predict it will be, or whether it will lead to seedy bars, increased crime and more public drunkenness and DUI arrests that opponents fear.

History shows the support of alcohol sales in the city can decline rather quickly. When the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was repealed and prohibition ended in 1933, voters in all of Carter County approved the legal sale of alcohol by a vote of 2,445 to 1,721. However, just four years later, Carter County again became “dry” when voters rejected alcohol sales by a vote of 2,581 to 2,128. While we were not around in those days, the people of Carter County had to be displeased with the way alcohol was being sold in the county to have such a change in public attitude in only four years.

The same thing can happen again unless Grayson enacts an alcohol ordinance that effectively governs the sale of alcohol in the city. If alcohol sales are properly controlled like here in Ashland, Grayson voters will continue to support those sales. But if those sales lead to rowdy barroom fights and drunks wandering the streets late at night, the support for alcohol sales is likely to diminish quickly.

The Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) plays the biggest role in governing how alcohol is sold in the Kentucky cities and counties where sales are legal. The number of package stores in the city will be determined by the ABC based  on the city’s population.

When the four downtown precincts in Ashland voted to go “wet” in  1981, the city commissioners enacted an ordinance  banning packaged alcohol sales in grocery stores and were surprised when Super X (now CVS), a drug store then  in the Midtown Shopping Center was awarded a state license  for packaged beer and alcohol sales.

 A few years later, the ABC approved the sale of beer in supermarkets and convenience stores over the protests of Ashland Commissioners. We mention this only because it likely will be the ABC and not the city council that will decide if beer can be sold in supermarkets, variety stores and convenience stores.

The Grayson City Council can set the hours of alcohol sales in the city and whether it can be sold on Sunday. The city council also can assess a local tax on alcohol sales. Of course, it will be up to the Grayon Police Department to enforce the local ordinances regarding liquor sales.

In writing its own ordinance, elected officials in Grayson would be wise to use liquor ordinances in other Kentucky cities as a model for its ordinance. Most of the cities in Kentucky that are either ”wet” or “moist” are larger than Grayson, and the alcohol ordinances in the few towns that are comparable in size to Grayson may prove to be the most valuable to Grayson leaders.

The question of whether alcohol sale should be legal in Grayson was answered Tuesday. The ordinance the city council enacts to govern the sale of alcohol will go a long way toward determing how liquor will be sold in the town. It’s an important matter. The ordinance could well determine the long-term future of alcohol sales in the city.